T4’s Best Girl
Lola died on a Sunday morning. That morning was anything but easy as Nathan and I were faced with the realization that our best girl could no longer get up. Nathan knew this was coming, and he told me a few times over the past year that one day she may not be able to stand. We just had no idea that it would be on March 27th, 2022, the day after she was able to take a short walk in the neighborhood.
Lola’s story of picking us as a family is amazing. Noah and Lily went to a friend’s birthday party at the Milan animal shelter. There was a litter of chow mix puppies that were passed around for the children to hold. I held one of the puppies and whispered in her ear, “I would adopt you but my husband would never let me.”
We had a dog at the time, and he was not the best dog (https://n8njeni.com/?p=329) Jack tested us as pet owners, but we had a dog before Jack named Sam who was quite the opposite. She looked like a black flat coat retriever, and she was loving and gentle.
Fast forward six months, and Lily and I were at a health fair at the Two River’s YMCA. In walked the Milan animal shelter employees with a beautiful black dog who looked like Sam’s twin. I quickly texted Nathan, “Sam’s clone just walked into the Y.” I didn’t think Nathan would ever be interested in a second dog due to our issues with Jack, but a few minutes later Nathan and Noah showed up. We all went up to the gorgeous black dog, and we all fell in love. Well, all of us but Lily. Lily at the age of 4 was already stubborn. Her first word was Jackie, and she wasn’t quite sure about having a second dog in the family. We convinced her this was a good idea by telling her that she could name the dog if she would agree to adopt her. After a little thinking, little Lily agreed.
In order to adopt the dog, we had to introduce her to Jack. After the health fair, we loaded Jack up in the car and went to the animal shelter. Jack didn’t like the dog, but we assured the employees at the shelter that they would be fine once they were home in our large yard together.
During this time, I was reading a series of books to Lily by Diane deGroat about opossum siblings named Gilbert and Lola. Lily loved the little sister Lola, so she chose that name for our new dog. She gave her the middle name Starr just like her middle name, so we had a Lily Starr and Lola Starr.
We had a friend who was a volunteer at the animal shelter, and Lola had a chip in her so she was able to trace her previous owners. Sure enough, Lola came from the litter of chow puppies that we passed around at the birthday party months prior. Of course, I believe that Lola was the one that I held and whispered in her ear, and I believe she made sure to find me again. Was she a chow? I don’t think so. We did a DNA test on her that came back as “supermut” and included Rottweiler (highly unlikely), black lab, golden retriever, Symoa, and German Shepard.
We brought Lola home, and we were right about Jack. Eventually, he accepted that another black bitch would be sharing his family with him. Jack followed me everywhere, and we soon learned that other than happiness Lola’s main emotion was jealousy. Jack would greet me every morning in the bathroom, and Lola would come in and push him out. I felt bad for old Jack, but Lola was very hard to resist.
From the ages of 7 and 4 until 20 and 17, Lola grew up with Noah and Lily. When we adopted her, I thought the timing of her adoption was perfect as I knew that the end of her life would come around the time that Lily graduated from high school. Oh, I was so naïve back then. Losing Lola during the end of Lily’s senior year was devastating.
However, I know that I should feel lucky that we had 13 full years with the best dog ever. I started calling her the love of my life because I have never had a more loyal, loving, and wonderful dog. She was there for me every time I cried, whenever I felt alone, for all of life’s hardships.
Lola loved to walk, and Nathan and I were committed to walking her every day possible. We would ask her, “Wanna go for a walk? Go get your leash!” Eventually, we would just say, “Get your!” Finally, we just had to say the sound, “CHA!” and she would run to her leash and do a very enthusiastic dance.
When Jack died, we put Lola in the basement and shut the door. She scratched the carpet on the top stair until it was in shreds. This was one of the only bad things Lola ever did. I couldn’t be mad at her as she seemed to know that she was losing her older brother that day.
I was told by a vet that Lola needed to lose about 5 pounds. Lola loved food perhaps as much as she loved all of us. She liked to share my egg sandwich in the morning, lick my oatmeal bowl, and she even got into 20 treat bags from a Valentine’s Day party for Lily’s class and ripped open all of the hot chocolate. Oh, and she ate an entire container of fish food and a packet of algae tabs. I could go on. I put Lola on a diet of no table food and an exercise regimen of long walks. She worked so hard, and she lost 5 pounds. Somehow I started feeding her table food again. I think it was her big brown eyes.
Lola loved everyone who visited our house. She greeted anyone who came through our door as a welcome guest, and she often sniffed their crotches a little too enthusiastically. She loved all people, but she didn’t appreciate fellow canine visitors. The exception was Alex and Mike’s dog, Luca. Luca came over often as a pup, and Lola decided she could accept him into her pack. She kept him in his place, but she also gave him lots of love. They were besties to the end.
Eight years ago, Lily begged us for a cat. We decided to test Lola with a cat, so I had a friend bring over her cat. Lola was terrified. We knew that any cat would be very safe in our home. For Christmas in 2014, we gave Lily a black cat. She named her Luna Moon and so we had a black dog and black cat. Lola and Luna lived in harmony, although Lola did sometimes appear to get the heebie-jeebies when she walked past the cat. We caught them laying very close together many times over the years. Sometimes they appeared to be plotting against us.
In May of 2014, Grandma Tackett moved to East Moline. Lola never had a grandma live in her town, and she fell in love with her grandma. Grandma always had treats for Lola when she entered the house. Lola loved to sit by grandma and get pets, and she didn’t like sharing her grandma with the cat or anyone else.
In June of 2019, we moved from East Moline to Davenport. We worried about the cat’s ability to switch houses. We knew that cats are territorial while dogs are pack animals, so we were sure that Lola would be fine. Lola did not like our new home. She tried to lure us to the front door so that she could go to the old house. We were still moving things out of the old house, but I told Nathan that we can’t take her back even to visit. Lola had to make a clean break, and she eventually adjusted to Davenport although she never appreciated the hills.
Until about a year ago, Lola could walk with us all the way to Lindsay Park where we would let her off of her leash and she would run free. Nathan commented that it seemed like she could live five more years at that point. Then, she started to show signs of arthritis and pain. Walks became a very slow trudge. She would walk out at a good pace, but as soon as you turned around to come home she walked at a painfully slow pace. If a dog was ever ahead of her, she managed to speed up to a trot.
We went to a friends’ house the night before she died, and we talked about our old dogs. They have a 14-year-old dog, and they know that the end is near. Nathan said that he really thinks Lola will just not be able to get up one day.
On Sunday morning, Lola walked into our room and wedged herself halfway under my side of the bed where she enjoyed sleeping. I heard her legs moving along the wood floor, and I told Nathan to look at her. Lola wasn’t able to move her back legs, and the emergency vet clinic felt that her paralysis would be permanent.
We face timed Noah from college, Lily left the ice rink to say her good-byes, and then Nathan and I held on to our best girl and thanked her for the 13 plus years of unconditional love and support. There will never be another Lola Starr. She was truly the best dog we have ever known.
Thank you, T4’s best girl.
Facts about Lola:
She always had her right ear up and her left ear down
She ran hot, and in the summer she liked to lay by or on an air conditioning register. We took her camping in August for Lily’s birthday one year, and she searched the tent for a register.
We spoke for Lola in a deep voice with a bit of a lisp. At times she was a bit crass.
She loved to play in the snow.
She liked for the kids to go in the backyard and sit on the tire swing while she sniffed around.
She liked to lay anywhere that was inconvenient for us. She would lay behind my chair at the dinner table so that it was difficult for me to get up. We often stepped on her in the night.
She never bit anyone.
She hurt her paw and had to go to the emergency vet, and the staff commented that despite extreme pain she only licked them.
She never went to a kennel. We always had amazing pet sitters in our home: Ella Pettit and Heather Shoesmith in East Moline. Jazmin and Jake Tillotson, Emmalyn Mueller, Mari Kelley, Jenn O’Hanlon, and Jessica Barr in Davenport. She made Jazmin take her on LOTS of walks.
Lola cheered the kids on through 13 years of sports: Heat baseball, Riverdale baseball, track and cross country for Hampton, Riverdale, and Davenport Central. She would have loved to see Lily skate if she was allowed in the rink. She never really understood sports, and she would yell for Noah to score a touchdown in baseball and Lily to kick the ball in track…but she was always enthusiastic. On the day that she died, KU won their elite 8 game in March madness and lifted our moods a bit. They went on to win in the final four with Nathan and Noah in New Orleans cheering them on. Last night they won the National Championship, and Noah and Naomi stormed Mass street to celebrate the win. We like to think Lola was somehow involved and cheering KU on as they scored all of those home runs.
Lola had terrible breath at the end of her life but she had no idea. She enjoyed getting right in everyone’s faces.
Lola thought everything was about her: holidays, birthdays, photo shoots. She was usually right.
She was loved.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures of Lola: